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Welcome to Build Healthy Places Network’s New Executive Directors

Written by Build Healthy Places Staff on December 13, 2022

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A Note from Your New Co-Executive Directors of Build Healthy Places Network, Ruth Thomas-Squance, MPH, PhD (she/her) and Colleen Flynn (she/her)

As we head into a new era of Build Healthy Places Network (BHPN) and as your new Executive Directors, we wanted to say thank you to everyone for the warm welcome. Having been at BHPN as Senior Directors for the last four years, this move was a natural progression for both of us and we’re honored to continue to do this good work. We’re so grateful to Doug Jutte for launching this effort and for his leadership – thank you, Doug!

With the ten-year anniversary of BHPN approaching, it is truly remarkable to look back at the ground-breaking accomplishments to-date. Through the deep relationships with community development and expanding connections within public health and healthcare that we’ve built, we are excited to advance momentum for coordinated systems change and multi-sector collaboration that centers racial equity to improve health outcomes for all. We’ve developed playbooks with guidance on rural health, community developers and economic development, working together to co-invest in communities more effectively, advance health equity and overturn racist systems of disinvestment. We have shared inspiring stories of such partnerships in dozens of locations across the country. We also continue to learn from our Community Innovations for Racial Equity cohort centering the expertise of BIPOC-led community development corporations to support shifting power from healthcare institutions to community-led and community ownership models. 

Our goal as co-directors will be to promote exactly what we do every day at BHPN: encourage a culture of inclusion and collaboration. We recognize that the diversity of our experience in public health and biomedical research, along with community development finance and equitable development, will ensure a thoughtful and powerful partnership. This is particularly important as we look toward the complex challenges  the country faces with systemic racism and an eventual post-pandemic vision of health care. 

In the next decade of BHPN, we want to respect our past and disrupt the future. We’re looking forward to building on the work of the talented colleagues before us. We’ll uplift work that embodies meaningful engagement with communities, highlighting organizations working across sectors with racial equity as a central value in their efforts to create the vital conditions to support community health outcomes.  

We’ll be encouraging a focus on tribal health, building on our work in rural areas, looking at what it takes to make multi-sector collaboration work across the country. In 2023, we’ll also be digging into our own racial equity work to understand the complexities of racism as it manifests in the systems we work with and how we can best show up to support anti-racism, all while ensuring that we’re putting communities in the driver’s seat to steer equitable outcomes. 

A huge thank you to our exceptional and dedicated team at BHPN, the core of our successes and leadership in the field. Thank you for being part of our community. We look forward to working with you in 2023!

-Ruth & Colleen